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Conservation Success Story for Kirtland’s Warbler

Sometimes it’s the little things, done year after year, that have profound impacts. So it is with the team efforts led by biologists at the NWRC Ohio Field Station.

For the past 38 years, the Ohio Field Station has been trapping and providing brown-headed cowbirds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Michigan for use in decoy traps as part of conservation efforts to save the endangered Kirtland’s warbler. Each year for the past 30 years, biologists and technicians have trapped and held 400 cowbirds for several weeks each spring until the USFWS comes to pick them up. The USFWS and partners distribute the birds in decoy traps located throughout the warbler’s range in northern Michigan. Cowbirds in the area are attracted to the birds in the traps which allows them to be captured as well, thus removing and preventing them from laying their eggs in warbler nests. Nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds was one of the primary causes of the warbler’s decline.


This effort, as well as habitat initiatives, has led to the recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler and the proposal to remove the species from the Endangered Species list. Something to celebrate!

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